Reduce Energy & Operating Costs Using New Technology
The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way that facility professionals operate and maintain school and hospital buildings. Facility teams are using the IoT to create smarter buildings and better physical environments for learning and healing, while at the same time giving teachers, caregivers and other staff members a more comfortable, secure and productive place to work.
These improvements are being driven by technology advancements and the availability of unprecedented volumes of data from individual building systems. The IoT turns this data into useful information, providing educational and healthcare facility team members the insight needed to manage energy consumption and operating costs, improve system reliability and uptime, and minimize the organization’s environmental footprint – all at the same time.
Today’s advanced building automation system (BAS) platforms are powerful tools that let facility teams manage the operation of major building systems such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, fire protection and entry control. These discrete systems can be monitored and operated from a single, user-friendly dashboard that operators can access anytime and from any location with a laptop computer or other device connected to the internet.
The continuing development of secure wireless communications, big data, cloud computing, direct digital controls and other innovations has been a real game-changer for building operators, who now are able to manage individual building systems from the BAS. As technology continues to evolve, systems will become even smarter, more connected and more integrated – realizing the full potential of the IoT.
Industry Adopts Internet of Things
The building automation and control industry has been an early adopter of the IoT, which is defined by Cisco Systems as “the intelligent connectivity of physical devices, driving massive gains in efficiency, business growth and quality of life.”
Building system original equipment manufacturers are using direct digital controls to make their systems, products and components smarter and more connectable. They are incorporating system expandability and connectivity in their designs to prepare for the next generation of IoT maturity. And manufacturers are finding ways to enable improved decision making and faster fault detection and correction by automating the analysis of system performance data from multiple system types that historically have been separate, stand-alone systems.
The value that IoT brings to healthcare and educational facility teams is evident in the area of intelligent operations and services. Facility teams can use real-time data to make information-based decisions. As a result, they can develop more proactive, sophisticated operating and maintenance strategies that can improve building performance and help the organization capitalize on the value inherent in its physical assets.
These capabilities enable facility teams to use predictive and reliability-centered maintenance models that help them anticipate problems and determine the optimum time to service equipment. For example, sensors can monitor the performance of an HVAC fan motor and alert operators if vibration levels exceed the norm, foreshadowing a potential unit failure.
A reliability-centered maintenance strategy lets the facility team align its maintenance approach with the organization and building mission, objectives and resources. This approach recognizes that not all building systems are of equal importance, placing a higher priority on mission-essential equipment. Building owners and operators usually work with third-party experts to implement predictive and reliability-centered strategies.
Data is Essential
Intelligent operations and services offer the next step in the IoT evolution for building systems. With an intelligent services approach, smart, connected products and systems continuously collect and integrate data for the BAS to analyze, interpret and automatically act upon. The system also alerts facility teams when anomalies occur so problems can be addressed quickly and efficiently, before they cause system failure.
A healthcare facility might set air quality, temperature, humidity and air pressure standards for different hospital units to support its infection-control program. The intelligent services platform can continuously monitor multiple locations in the facility and automatically adjust settings to maintain stable pressure differentials, humidity levels and temperature conditions for each specific location and critical area.
The school district can identify a key piece of HVAC equipment, such as a chilled water system, as mission-essential because its failure would severely disrupt school operations. Analytical fault detection and diagnostic tools can be used to monitor the system’s operation and alert technicians if a potential problem is detected.
A typical building’s variable air volume (VAV) terminal units are commissioned and calibrated when they are first installed in a new building. Due to manpower costs, even the most comprehensive service agreements call for randomly inspecting only a small portion of the VAV boxes each year, creating an opportunity for inefficiencies to creep into the system.
There are big numbers associated with improving the performance of hospital and school buildings, which rank among the most energy-intensive building types in the United States, based on hours of use. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that most buildings could be 30- 50 percent more energy efficient.
Organizational leaders are starting to recognize the huge potential of better building performance. A survey of corporate executives sponsored by Ingersoll Rand and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 82 percent of senior leaders consider energy efficiency an important strategy for their organization and more than three-fourths said sustainability would become even more important to them in the coming years.
As more organizations embrace high performance building technologies and practices, it is impossible to overstate the importance of sound operating, maintenance and service practices in realizing the full potential of their investment.
Sound operating, maintenance and service practices are critically important in realizing optimum operating efficiency of school and hospital buildings. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has gone so far as to conclude that a poorly designed building operated and maintained effectively will consistently outperform a well-designed building with poor operating and maintenance practices when it comes to energy consumption, operating costs and sustainability.
As the IoT evolution continues to impact the building automation and control industry, it is obvious that the availability of actionable information – in the right place, at the right time and in the right hands – can mean the difference between an efficient, reliable building and one that uses too much energy, costs too much to operate and puts the organization’s mission at risk.
Dane Taival is Vice President of Service and Customer care for Trane in North America.